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Gluten-free Diet Improves Mental Clarity for Celiac Sufferers

Celiac.com 12/08/2014 - Many people with celiac disease report suffering from impaired cognition or "brain fog," but no good study had been done until a research team took an in-depth look at the issue. Of particular interest was the degree to which improved mental clarity in gluten-free celiac patients correlates with histological and serological measures of disease severity.

Photo: CC--SA 3.0The research team included I. T. Lichtwark, E. D. Newnham, S. R. Robinson, S. J. Shepherd, P. Hosking, P. R. Gibson, and G. W. Yelland, who are variously affiliated with the School of Psychological Sciences, Monash University, Clayton, Australia, the Eastern Health Clinical School at Monash University, Box Hill Hospital, Melbourne, Australia, the School of Health Sciences at RMIT University in Bundoora, Australia, and the Central Clinical School at Monash University, Alfred Health, Melbourne, Australia.

The team’s longitudinal pilot study investigated relationships between cognitive function and mucosal healing in people with newly diagnosed celiac disease beginning a gluten-free diet.

The team evaluated eleven clinically diagnosed celiac patients (8 females, 3 males), ranging from 22–39 years of age. The test subjects submitted to a battery of cognitive tests at weeks 0, 12 and 52. The tests measured information processing efficacy, memory, visuospatial ability, motor function and attention.

Subjects received small bowel biopsies via routine gastroscopy at weeks 12 and 52 and results were compared to baseline Marsh scores. The researchers then compared cognitive performance against serum concentrations of tissue transglutaminase antibodies, biopsy outcomes and other biological markers.

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All patients had excellent gluten-free dietary adherence. They also showed substantially improved Marsh scores (P = 0.001, Friedman's test), while tissue transglutaminase antibody concentrations dropped from an average of 58.4 at baseline to 16.8 U/mL at week 52 (P = 0.025).

Results for four of the cognitive tests assessing verbal fluency, attention and motor function showed significant improvement over the 12 months, and these improvements strongly correlated with the Marsh scores and tissue transglutaminase antibody levels (r = 0.377–0.735; all P < 0.05).

However, the data did not show any significant connections with nutritional or biochemical markers, or markers of intestinal permeability.

Inpatients with newly diagnosed celiac disease, cognitive performance improves with a strict gluten-free diet in tandem with gut healing.

People with untreated celiac disease may suffer suboptimal cognition that can impair the performance of everyday tasks.

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